Based in Revesby in Western Sydney, L&A Pressure Welding began to see signs it needed to change tack in 2016. Revenues from oil and gas, its major customer base, were slowing, and a significant chunk of its workforce was edging toward retirement age. With the operation looking like it might run out of puff, attracting the next generation of employees emerged as a major issue for L&A.
Initially, L&A focused on filling gaps in their capabilities through mentoring and responding to the national call for manufacturers to be innovative. But they quickly found this approach just wasn’t enough.
“We started to think about how could we make our business more sexy for the younger generation,” said L&A Pressure Welding’s General Manager David Fox. “How could we make it the new Google or that sort of thing? Was that even possible? And, if it was, how do we even do that?”
L&A’s quest to discover whether heavy industrial fabricating could be made more appealing quickly shifted towards partnership business models and a collaborative working style designed to deliver a workforce fit for the future. As a result, L&A has attracted an expanding network of collaborative partnerships, with schools, TAFEs and universities, as well as enterprise software company PTC, and the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre.
These collaborative partnerships have seen L&A invest in digitising its welding supply chain and processes, experiment with virtual and augmented reality technology, and engage with the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and Western Sydney University LaunchPad on projects related to Industry 4.0 technology.
This foray into Industry 4.0 technology pointed to the need for a host of new skills, from cybersecurity and sensor applications, through to user experience and narrowband wireless communications. And so, L&A looked to the future of Australia’s workforce: students.
The company’s first school engagement was a STEM expo at Knox Grammar with Lincoln Electric. From there, L&A has held demonstrations at both Liverpool Boys High School and Liverpool Girls High School. They’ve also taken on two interns: a Year 10 student from Liverpool Boys High, and a mechanical engineering student from Macquarie University. Together with a professional app developer, these two interns are researching the application of the Internet of Things (IoT), and developing a proof of concept for a piece of software that will support product interaction.
L&A is also working with two academics from UTS on a research project that will examine the social and educational outcomes and benefits delivered by the pilot of their industry-education engagement business model. Fox is surprised at just how quickly the pilot has moved, “I didn’t think all this would be possible so quickly. But there is obviously an appetite and an enthusiasm for these types of collaborative business models.”
Reaching the next generation of employees has also seen L&A re-evaluate its branding. The importance of marketing—not a major concern for L&A in the past—has become clear. The company has reinvented and re-branded itself, recently adopting a modern, more all-encompassing name: LA Services.
“With the transformation of our business, and integration of a much wider variety of digital services, we felt that we needed a brand that encapsulated our modern, advanced approach to manufacturing. While our heritage and core services are still very clearly founded in welding, we now offer so much more value to our clients. Our new name, LA Services, is infinitely more flexible,” said Fox.
LA Services is proactively engaged with research and education partners, seeking longevity for Australian manufacturing and attracting young talent who are seeking a challenging career that involves their hands, problem solving and the application of technical capabilities. With a focus on integrating IoT with material and data science, LA Services is developing innovative ways to combine its industrial manufacturing heritage with digital services to safeguard the future of its operations.
Through industry collaboration, LA Services is clearly delivering on its newly minted company purpose: Inspiring jobs for future generations.